22 Jan

Words have meaning. We know this. While we know the meaning we put into our words, the meaning that others derive from them can be different, and the impact they have can be unexpected.

While we expect words from loved ones to have the most resonance, sometimes it’s the words of people you don’t know well, that impact you in ways you couldn’t foresee. We give more credence to people who know us best, as their words align to our self-concept. But sometimes it takes someone with a fresh perspective to make things as clear as only someone with no preconceived notions could.

Thinking about this unexpected impact, I oftentimes think about a time years ago when I went out to grab a drink with a friend — not a particularly close one — we used to be closer but lost touch over the years. I was in an a relationship that had potential, but somehow was just wrong. I told this to my friend, to which she said: “I’ll tell you something that my mother told me; you never want to be with someone for their potential. They need to be what you need them to be today, right now.” While not particularly earth-shattering, these simple words, coming from a source I didn’t come to seek wisdom from, were exactly what I needed. I had been thinking that already subconsciously, but I needed words to activate my thoughts and move me to action. These were real thoughts in my head now; ones I could act on. I ended up exploring the relationship I was in, getting some answers for myself, and moving on. Soon thereafter, I met my husband.

A few weeks ago, i was talking to my colleague Matt Partovi. I was struggling with bringing an initiative to life. It didn’t feel right. “Why don’t you think of it as starting a movement?” he said. Bam! That was exactly the word that brought to the forefront the nascent thoughts that couldn’t quite take shape. That was the word I needed right then, right there. Just one little word, which now laid on the page and summed up what I intellectually and emotionally knew, but couldn’t say. This one word is permeating a lot of my plans for 2013 – personal and professional.

The word movement means something to me, and when I say it to others I can see in their reaction that it means something to them too. It was my colleague’s words that tapped into the dormant words in my head and activated them. They sprung me into action, and now the movements we create can spring others into action.

So what? I know I, for one, will be more mindful of the impact simple words I say can have on others — people I know and people I don’t even know well (or at all). So let’s be thoughtful and deliberate about words we put out there — you never know when they may make an impact.

How have simple words, coming from an unexpected direction, changed you in unexpected ways? ¬†Have you yourself been able to make an impact you didn’t expect to?

Photo Credit: AlexanderBohn via Compfight cc

  • JD Lasica

    Simple but profound.

    Probably the words that move me the most today come from my son. Like it or not, you’re a role model to your kid, and that’s always a good reality check. Start feeling too full of yourself and your child will surely put an end to that.¬†

    • Maria Ogneva

      Thanks for sharing this, JD, and I almost missed this comment here! What did your son say?